Professor Wilferd Madelung, Senior Research Fellow at the IIS, was awarded the Eighteenth Giorgio Levi Della Vida Award at the University of California, Los Angeles on May 10, 2007. The award honours his life-long commitment to scholarship, education and professional service in the field of Islamic Studies.
The Giorgio Levi Della Vida Medal of the Gustave E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies is awarded every few years to an outstanding scholar whose work has significantly and lastingly advanced the study of Muslim civilisations. The award was inaugurated in 1967 and consists of a bronze medal and a prize. The recipient of the award also chooses the theme of the associated conference and selects the participants. As part of the award, the recipient is also obligated to present a paper at the conference. The proceedings of each conference are then published in a special series.
Professor Madelung proposed "Universality in Islamic Thought" as the theme of this year's international conference which was held on 10-12 May, 2007, anticipating contributions from leading scholars on universality in Sufism, Islamic philosophy, Ismaili thought, Hanafi legal thought, and Ibadi thought. His Keynote Lecture, given after the award presentation, was entitled "The Mu'tazila and Rational Theology" and developed the theme of universality in kalam, in particular Mu‘tazili thought, on which he is currently working. Participants included Professors Michael Cooperson (UCLA), Ismail Poonawala (UCLA), Hossein Ziai (UCLA), Carl Ernst (University of North Carolina), Dimitri Gutas (Yale University), Susan Slyomovics (UCLA), Baber Johansen (Harvard Divinity School), and Emily Savage-Smith (Oxford University). Azim Nanji, Director of The Institute of Ismaili Studies was a discussant in the final session.
A leading Islamicist, Wilferd Madelung became Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago in 1969 and Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford in 1978. Currently, he is a Senior Research Fellow with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. He has contributed extensively to the Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Encyclopaedia Iranica for which he is also a consulting editor. In 2003 he was honoured by a Festschrift, “Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam”, edited by Farhad Daftary and Josef W. Meri. According to Dr Daftary, Prof. Madelung "has made major contributions to many aspects of medieval Islamic history and thought, with particular reference to religious schools and movements in early Islam... Indeed, his studies, based on a vast array of primary sources, have enriched our understanding of almost every major Islamic movement, school or community."
Previous Giorgio Levi Della Vida Award recipients included many leading scholars of Ismaili Studies.
The late Professor Annemarie Schimmel, the eleventh recipient in 1987, was a friend of the Institute, where she taught summer courses on Islam. She published Make A Shield From Wisdom: Selected Verses from Nasir-i Khusraw’s Divan in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies in 1993 (reprinted in 2001). On her demise in 2003, her books on Indo-Muslim culture and civilisation were left to Professor Ali Asani, who donated the bulk of that collection, in her memory, to The Institute of Ismaili Studies.
The recipient of the Seventeenth Prize in 2002, was Professor Mohammed Arkoun who is also a Senior Research Fellow at the IIS and a member of The Institute of Ismaili Studies’ Board of Governors. He is a lecturer on the Institute's Graduate Programme and in summer courses on Islam. He published The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies in 2002.